In William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” the titular character pronounces that the play is the setting wherein he’ll catch the conscience of the murderous king, his uncle. Though the line shows Hamlet’s intent, it’s also a nice segue.
For a burgeoning group of DePaul students, Shakespeare’s plays and their numerous adaptations are the thing that brings them together. They watch adaptations and talk about authorship, as well as what they like and dislike, whether or not the new rendering follows the text or merely samples from it and their favorites — new and old.
The group itself is like an adaptation of others that have existed long before it. Though they haven’t started acting the plays yet, that is a goal that president Kaitlen Foley is aiming for, but more than that she wants to help people get interested in Shakespeare.
“I wanted to start this club to have an outlet to talk about (Shakespeare),” Foley said. “He’s not just some old dead white guy.”
Foley and her roommate, vice president and treasurer Rebecca Manion, have a shared interest in the bard’s work. Foley is interested in the plays and got into them through performing.
Performances of Shakespeare, both professional and in a high school English class, are how many learn about the plays and learn the meanings behind them. It was through a performance class at DePaul that Foley met another member, Nathan Denson, who also enjoys Shakespeare’s works and the adaptations. Together, with a few others, they watch “Gnomeo and Juliet” and “The Lion King,” “10 Things I Hate About You” and “The West Side Story,” and clash over who acts a better Hamlet.
Shakespeare’s legacy and history of emulation goes way back of course.
Since the 1930s, according to Absolute Shakespeare, there have been over 300 adaptations of the bard’s plays. Though the club is new — it started at the end of Winter Quarter — it is beginning to line up plans for its future and has a wealth of subject matter to analyze and perform. Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets during his lifetime, though this number could be higher because there were plays and sonnets lost to time.
For some, Shakespeare’s plays can be daunting. The old English, the double entendres and angsty princes and villains are boring and a thing of the past. Members of the group acknowledge these feelings and understand why people might think this way and hope that the club and its future events can change that perception.
“Here, you’re not graded and we’re not reading straight from the text,” Denson said. “We want people to have an open mind, but everyone is welcome here.”
Right now the group is trying to build its numbers and collaborate with other groups to bring Shakespeare to the larger DePaul audience.
Advisor of the group Edward Evins said “talking about Shakespeare outside the classroom and in a more relaxed environment can help with the accessibility (of the works)” and that’s what the group aims to do.
“I get that some people may not like him because of bad experiences, but there are so many strong characters within his works,” Manion said. “I’ve been reading Shakespeare since the sixth grade and it means a lot to me. We hope to do table reads and discussions to educate others and help them understand the text.”